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Exclusive: Anger 'won't bring him back,' wife of slain prisons chief says

By Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
updated 9:51 AM EDT, Fri April 5, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lisa Clements is the wife of slain Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements
  • She and her two daughters don't want Clements remembered for his killing
  • The family says they are "praying" for the grace to forgive

(CNN) -- The wife of slain Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements told CNN Thursday that she refuses to be angry over the news that the parolee believed to have killed her husband was released from prison four years early because of a clerical error.

Court officials admitted this week that an error allowed 28-year-old Evan Ebel -- the man authorities have linked to Clements' killing last month -- to be released in January.

"Much like the incident itself, I could become enraged. For the rest of my days, I could be angry that someone made a mistake and didn't capture what a judge conveyed," Lisa Clements told CNN's Anderson Cooper in her first interview since the March 19 shooting.

"But it won't bring Tom back, and then my life is in that and my ability to be a good mother to my children. So I choose not to make it a focus."

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The error dates back to 2008 when Ebel pleaded guilty to punching a prison guard in the face while serving an eight-year sentence for armed robbery and menacing. A judge ordered him to serve another four years consecutively, but a court clerk entered the sentence as concurrent, according to documents and court officials.

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Authorities believe Ebel rang the doorbell of Clements home and opened fire when Clements opened the front door.

Lisa Clements said she and her daughters, Rachel and Sarah, are praying for "our ability to forgive."

"I think it's not perhaps a point in time thing. I think it's something we grow into," she said.

Fighting back tears, Clements' wife and two daughters described a loving family man who was more than just his job description.

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"I see him as my dad. He was my hero. He intervened in my life so many times, and he really changed my path. I just want people to know that, that he's my dad," Sarah Clements said.

His daughter, Rachel, said: "I would like people to see how he lived his life, and that is so much more important than how he died. He lived his life with such passion and compassion for other people."

Clements and his wife met at age 19 while both were studying sociology.

Lisa Clements said she was drawn to her husband because of his compassion, his desire to help people.

"At a very early age, that was very interesting to me," she said.

The family told CNN that they are trying to move beyond the actions that led to Clements' killing.

That's due in part to stories Clements shared with them.

Texas DA, wife remembered at memorial service

Often, the prisons chief met with victims of crime. Many told him how their lives had been ruined by violence, and they were unable to forgive the perpetrator.

But some of the victims told Clements they had to move past it, they had to live their lives.

"It would just be the ultimate tragedy, if Tom's life were this horrific end and my life was destroyed by it," Lisa Clements said.

She has taken comfort from a passage from scripture that says "when darkness overtakes the godly, light comes bursting through."

"That horrific night, and the sound of that doorbell and all that happened was just unmentionable darkness," she said.

"I trust that people will see light coming through, that they will see a man lived a good life and people's lives were impacted by that. "

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